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Varanus palawanensis KOCH, GAULKE & BÖHME, 2010

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Higher TaxaVaranidae, Platynota, Anguimorpha, Sauria, Squamata (lizards) 
Common Names 
SynonymVaranus palawanensis KOCH, GAULKE & BÖHME 2010
Varanus (Soterosaurus) palawanensis — KOCH et al. 2010
Varanus (Soterosaurus) palawanensis — BUCKLITSCH et al. 2016: 50 
DistributionPhilippines (Palawan; Balabac and the Calamian Island group including Calauit and Busuanga; Sibutu Island within the Sulu Archipelago)

Type locality: Tabon, Palawan Island, Philippines Map legend:
TDWG region - Region according to the TDWG standard, not a precise distribution map.

NOTE: TDWG regions are generated automatically from the text in the distribution field and not in every cases it works well. We are working on it.
TypesHolotype: SMF 73912 (Figs. 25–27), adult male, collected by M. Gaulke 19.I.1989, donated 6.IV.1989.
Paratypes. SMF 73914–15, 2 adults males, Tabon, Palawan Island, collected by M. Gaulke, I.1989, donated 6.IV.1989; BMNH, subadult, Palawan Island, collected by A. H. Everett, 1894; BMNH, adult (Fig. 28), Palawan Island, collected by A. H. Everett, 1894; MNHN 1884-187, adult (mounted), “Ile Paragua” (= Palawan), collected by A. Marché, ca. 1883; ZMUC E78, subadult, Dalawan Bay, Balabac Island, collected by the Noona Dan Expedition, 8.X.1961; ZFMK 89691 (formerly SMF 73913), adult male, Tabon, Palawan Island, collected by M. Gaulke, I.1989, donated 6.IV.1989. 
CommentThis species may have been previously identified as V. salvator marmoratus.

Diagnosis. This new water monitor species is characterised by the following combination of characters that distinguishes V. palawanensis sp. nov. from all congeners: (1) relatively high scale counts around the head from rictus to rictus (character P = 53–65, mean = 56.64), (2) but low scale counts around the body (character S = 129–148, mean = 139.00), (3) and mean scale counts along the dorsal side (character XY = 116–145, mean = 128.27). For the remaining scalation features we refer to Table 3. Moreover, (4) the salvator-typical colour pattern of dorsal transverse rows of big bright spots and a bright and dark banded tail is indistinct in V. palawanensis sp. nov., and replaced by a vague pattern of bright mottling consisting of many single or bright bordered scales. Instead, (5) specimens often exhibit white markings on the head, (6) but a bright lateral temporal streak extending between eye and ear opening is poorly defined. (7) The dark bluegreyish tongue is flesh-coloured only at its base. (8) Ventrally, the throat shows no dark lateral bars but is mottled with dark brown scales. For details about scalation features and colour pattern of the remaining Philippine members of the V. salvator complex we refer to Tables 3 and 5 in KOCH et al. 2010.

Comparisons with other Philippine Varanus taxa. V. palawanensis sp. nov. is distinguished from the remaining Philippine members of the V. salvator complex by its reduced dorsal colour pattern. Only V. rasmusseni sp. nov. and V. marmoratus show the same tendency in adult specimens. However, latter species are either characterized by an increase (V. rasmusseni sp. nov.) or a reduction (V. marmoratus) of dorsal transverse rows of bright spots in juveniles. In addition, whitish markings of varying extent on the head are only known from V. nuchalis, which, however, is clearly differentiated by enlarged nuchal scales (character XY = 94–138, mean = 109.45 vs. 116–145, mean 12.14 in V. palawanensis sp. nov.). Note that at present due to the small sample size it cannot be excluded that V. rasmusseni sp. nov. also may show white blotches on the head. In tongue colouration, V. palawanensis sp. nov. resembles V. s. macromaculatus from Borneo which also exhibits dark blue-greyish pigmentation on the dorsal side and below, while the remaining Philippine water monitor populations have a flesh-coloured ventral side of the tongue. Compared to V. marmoratus, V. palawanensis sp. nov. exhibits significantly more scales around the base of the tail (character Q = 98–119, mean = 105, vs. 85–107, mean = 94.73), and along the dorsal side (character XY = 116–145, mean = 127.14, vs. 101–123, mean = 110.80). Compared to V. s. macromaculatus from Borneo, V. palawanensis sp. nov. has the nostrils on average further apart from the tip of the snout (index 2 = 1.69–2.20, mean = 1.90, vs. 2.00–2.80, mean 2.16; P = 0.018). It has fewer scales around the tail after one third of its length (character R = 48–70, mean = 56, vs. 53– 70, mean = 61.15; P = 0.014), around midbody (character S = 129–178, mean = 141.93, vs. 142–170, mean = 152.05; P = 0.029), on the dorsal side (character XY = 116–145, mean = 127.14, vs. 125–172, mean = 151.20 ; P < 0.0001), fewer supraoculars (character U = 10–14, mean 12, n = 14, vs. 12–19, mean = 14.33, n = 9; P = 0.006), and fewer supralabials (character c = 59–63, mean = 60.64, n = 14, vs. 58–70, mean = 65.25, n = 20; P < 0.0001). In addition, the salvator-typical colour pattern is only rarely expressed in V. palawanensis sp. nov. Despite a similarity in colour pattern of adult specimens between V. rasmusseni sp. nov. and V. palawanensis sp. nov., the latter species has larger and, therefore, fewer scales on the dorsal side (character TN = 155–176, mean = 169.50, vs. 183–187, mean = 185), and around the neck (character m = 93–116, mean = 101.15, vs. 120–129, mean = 124.50). 
EtymologyThe specific epithet palawanensis refers to the type locality Palawan Island, Philippines. 
  • Conrad, Jack L. 2015. Skeletons of the Little-Known Palawan Monitor, Varanus palawanensis (Squamata: Varanidae) Journal of Herpetology Sep 2015, Vol. 49, No. 3: 485-490. - get paper here
  • Koch, A. 2010. Underestimated Diversity of Philippine Water Monitor Lizards (Varanus salvator Complex) Unraveled: a Contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity, 2010. Biawak 4 (2): 69-74 - get paper here
  • Koch, A.; Gaulke, M. & Böhme, W. 2010. Unravelling the underestimated diversity of Philippine water monitor lizards (Squamata: Varanus salvator complex), with the description of two new species and a new subspecies. Zootaxa 2446: 1–54 - get paper here
  • Koch, André; Mark Auliya & Thomas Ziegler 2010. Updated checklist of the living monitor lizards of the world (Squamata: Varanidae). Bonn Zool. Bull. 57 (2): 127–136 - get paper here
  • Koch, André; Thomas Ziegler, Wolfgang Böhme, and Mark Auliya 2013. Pressing Problems: Distribution, Threats, and Conservation Status of the Monitor Lizards (Varanidae: Varanus spp.) of Southeast Asia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Herp. Cons. Biol. 8 (Monograph 3): 1 − 62. - get paper here
  • Koch, Z.; Philipp, K. & Ziegler, T. 2010. The Monitor Man: A Story of Stunning Discoveries and Charismatic Creatures. Biawak 4 (4): 132-152 - get paper here
  • Welton, Luke J.; Perry L. Wood, Jamie R. Oaks, Cameron D. Siler, Rafe M. Brown 2014. Fossil-calibrated phylogeny and historical biogeography of Southeast Asian water monitors (Varanus salvator Complex). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution - get paper here
  • Welton, Luke J.; SCOTT L. TRAVERS, CAMERON D. SILER, RAFE M. BROWN 2014. Integrative taxonomy and phylogeny-based species delimitation of Philippine water monitor lizards (Varanus salvator Complex) with descriptions of two new cryptic species. Zootaxa 3881 (3): 201–227 - get paper here
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